The varied cuisine of Argentina clearly reflects the fact that approximately 85% of the population is of European heritage, many with strong ties to their appropriate ethnic groups and customs. Argentina is also a major agricultural producer in the world economy, particularly in beef, wheat, wine and soybeans. Alfajores Danubio (al-fah-HOR-ays dah-nu-BEE-oh) is a traditional cookie treat in Argentina. In Spanish, an alfajor is a cookie sandwich, and danubio means "Danube" reflecting a German/Austrian connection in their baking. These almond cookies are sandwiched with creamy layers of dulce de leche.
Argentina is arguably one of biggest producers of dulce de leche, exporting several tons each year. Uruguay is another major exporter. The international market for dulce de leche has expanded in recent years, particularly in the United States, where the introduction of Haagen-Dazs’s enormously popular Dulce de Leche ice cream flavor in 1998 is credited with introducing the flavor to the taste buds of the general public. Since then, the flavor of dulce de leche has found its way into the middle of Oreo sandwich cookies and McDonald’s milkshakes. Hershey’s chocolate has introduced a dulce de leche Kiss, and Smuckers produces a dulce de leche ice cream topping. Currently, Russia, Israel, the United States, and the European Union are among the largest importers of dulce de leche from Argentina and Uruguay.
(Note: Those of you who are less geographically challenged than I am have probably realized that I have skipped several countries such as Andorra, Angola, etc. While I will make every attempt to document these countries alphabetically, I'm basically skipping the hard ones and leaving them for later!)
1-1/3 cups butter, softened
1-3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
rind of one lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup finely ground toasted almonds
1-3/4 cups flour
With a mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and extracts. Add eggs one at a time, beating until each are incorporated. Add flour and ground almonds slowly. Knead dough lightly into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out to 1/4" thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut out in 2-inch rounds and place on baking sheets lined with parchment or greased and floured. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.
When cooled, make sandwich cookies using dulce de leche between the layers. Roll sides in shredded coconut if desired.
Dulce de Leche
1 quart whole milk
2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, scald the milk. Add the sugar, extract and baking soda. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture caramelizes -- at least one hour. Store refrigerated in a covered container.
Cookie recipe courtesy of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Dulce de leche recipe courtesy of WiseGeek.